DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys are facing a problem on defense, but it is not a quandary that is unwelcome.
What should the team do with rookie linebacker Micah Parsons now that pass rushers are starting to return for the defense?
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones told "K&C Masterpiece" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Monday that the plan is for defensive end Randy Gregory and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore to return to practice this week.
If both defensive linemen progress as the Cowboys hope, they will be available for Week 14 at Washington. The Cowboys already got a boon in Week 13 with the return of Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, which further emphasizes the question of where Parsons will fit in.
"The thing that’s going to be interesting is now that we’ve seen what Micah can do, but having Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence and Neville Gallimore back in the picture with the guys we already have," Jones said. "I think it’s exciting to think about. We’re going to get to see that firsthand hopefully starting with the Washington Football Team.”
Parsons provided Dallas with five combined tackles, 1.0 sack, two quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss in the 27-17 win at the New Orleans Saints. With Lawrence back on the edge, Parsons was able to play more as a spy on athletic quarterback Taysom Hill, and also drop into coverage more often than the past four weeks since Gregory has been out with a calf injury.
Jones believes that Gallimore and Gregory's "great couple of weeks" of practices will enable them to come off of injured reserve and give the Cowboys an attacking, rotating front seven against Washington.
Said Jones: "They’ve got to go out there and they’ll take another step this week with full practices. Unless there is a setback, which we certainly don’t expect — now, we’re preparing them to play in the game, but they have to certainly continue to progress, which they have every step of the way. But they’ve got to finish the full body of work, which is the full preparation for the game against [Washington].”
Parsons is making his case to be in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and would be the first rookie since Lawrence Taylor in 1981 to take home the award. Where the former Penn State product has built his eye-opening stats has been as a pass rusher where he has tallied 10.0 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
If Parsons is asked to drop more into coverage or stop the run, it could impact his candidacy but, if the pass rushers return healthy and perform their duties, that’s a sacrifice that the Cowboys could make as they seek dominance in the season’s final six games.
Do you think Micah Parsons should focus on being a pass rusher or return to his duties as a linebacker? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.